The Big Lunch is a chance to meet your neighbours and the people in your community. It’s a simple idea but people still want to know why we’re asking them to get together with their neighbours. What’s in it for us? Do we want them to raise funds for something? No, we say, we just want you to get to know your neighbours.
But why? I could tell you the stats saying that 85% of people who take part feel better about where they live, two thirds make friends they continue to stay in touch with and also go on to do more in their communities… But the real story? Let me tell you why I care.
I’ve worked on The Big Lunch for nearly five years. I’m not exaggerating to say I think I have a pretty awesome job. I’m in my thirties, healthy, a Mum, and I consider myself to have a group of close friends who I love and trust. But here’s the thing – my friends and family are all far flung, from Surrey and London to Australia and Mexico. Where I live, I don’t actually have a close network of people that I can call on for a coffee or a chat.
During a workshop I recently attended, we were asked to describe what loneliness meant for us personally and I realised that the lack of a local network for me was actually huge. On paper it all looked shiny, but in reality, there are times where I feel, well, isolated. And there’s a bit of shame attached to that – I’m doing well, why can’t I magic a group of trusted people out of the air?
And I also realised that the reason I work on The Big Lunch is hope. I see people brave enough to knock on their neighbours door and ask them to join the rest of the street for a lunch one afternoon, and I see what that does. It creates friends. It means you no longer say a quick hello to the man at number 22, or nod to the lady walking the Spaniel every morning, but you chat to John, and you ask Sarah about her Mum’s health.
I’m well aware that I’m not in one of the ‘at risk’ groups for isolation, but if I can feel isolated at times, then maybe it affects more of us than we like to imagine?
I’m about to move to a new community. And this time, I’m not going to leave it. As soon as I’ve emptied the last box from the van and had a cuppa, I’m going to pop round to my new neighbours’ houses. And I’m going to ask them if they want to join me for a Big Lunch in June. Because I know it’s something simple and straightforward I can do for myself – and who knows who else might be feeling a similar way?
The Big Lunch is a simple idea. Once a year we ask you to go out and have lunch in the street with your neighbours. And I truly believe that it can have a profound effect on our wellbeing.
Scottish community councils all have members who are brave and take active part in representing the community they live in, but sometimes it can be hard to be real representatives of people you don’t know. The Big Lunch could be a way for everyone in your community to get to know each other and to get to know the community council.
Why not participate in a discussion about The Big Lunch? You can share your views in the Knowledge Hub group*
* Please note if you are not already a member of this group, you will be asked to register.